Japanese Chef Knives - The Gyuto

When we talk about Japanese chef knives, the one you may be most familiar with is the Gyuto. Let’s dive into the origins and history of this tool, and the different ways you might use this world renowned chefs tool.

 

What Exactly Is It?

The Gyuto is the Japanese version of the western chef’s knife and is very versatile — it can be used for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing different kinds of meat.

Their length can range from between 18cm and 30cm, and usually have one long curve from heel to tip. This profile may vary slightly from region to region, as some blacksmiths prefer a taller Gyuto, some prefer a shorter height from heel to spine Regardless of the variations in profile, this slightly curved blade allows for many different styles of cutting.

The Origins And History

These blades emerged as a response to and inspired by western knives that Japan imported during the end of the 19th century, during the Meiji era.

The supply of these knives increased for two reasons after this period. 

First, until this time Japan had sealed itself off from the world, meaning very little foreign culture and few foreign goods were allowed to enter Japan. When Japan began opening itself up, western-style chef’s knives flooded in along with European food culture. At this point, it became more common for people to start eating meat at dinner. The knife earned its name — Gyuto (literal translation meaning "cow sword") — because it was mainly used for cutting beef during the rise in meat-eating. 

The second reason these knives were produced is because swords traditionally made by were no longer in great demand. While they still produced katanas and other weapons, blacksmiths turned to making kitchen knives as their rise in popularity proved to be an increasingly lucrative trade.

Using a Gyuto

Just like a western-style chef’s knife, it is ideal for a range of different tasks, and can be used a few different ways. 

Rock-chopping: With a firm grip on the handle, begin your cut with the tip of the blade, and without lifting the knife off the board, contact the blade with the board all the way down to the heel, sliding the blade forward as you cut. Repeat this motion by lifting the heel of the blade in the air and rocking back and forth along the blade length.

Pull-cutting: Start with the heel of the blade the back of your produce, contact the blade to the board from heel to tip, slicing through your produce. Great technique for proteins. 

Push-cutting: With the blade parallel to and off the cutting board, using the flatter part of the blade toward the heel, push down and forward at a 45 degree angle. Once pushed through your produce and contact with the board is made, pull up and back in the same direction and repeat.

The tip area, being nimble and small, makes it excellent for piercing tough meat and making fine cuts.

The blade length varies based on what you are likely to use it for. Shorter Gyuto are are more nimble but long blades give you more blade area for larger cuts of meat or vegetables.

Final Thoughts

Rich in culture and history, the Gyuto knife would be a great addition to any kitchen if you’re interested in upping your home-cooking game.

We consider it to be the first knife in your collection, as it can handle almost all manner of tasks. Opt for a 180mm-210mm if you prefer a smallish blade, or choose a 240mm blade if you prefer much longer knives for your tasks. 

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